Probing cancer cells’ ‘ecosystem’

Pervasis Therapeutics, MIT sign patent license agreement to halt progression of cancer cells

March 7, 2011
Lori Lesko
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Counting on changing the future of cancertherapy, Pervasis Therapeutics Inc. has entered into an exclusive patentlicense agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aimed atdeveloping a breakthrough cell therapy targeted toward delivering a safer, moreeffective cancer treatment.
 
 
The key to Pervasis' interest lay in MIT's discovery thatendothelial cells may have a cancer-fighting role. If so, this could lead tothe discovery of a new drug to stop the advance of cancerous tumors—and evenprevent the cancer from returning, according to the two parties. 
 
"The exclusive patent license agreement with MIT gives thecompany the rights to all discovery and development activities associated withcellular implants for cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment," says LynnBlenkhorn of Feinstein Kean Healthcare and spokesperson for Pervasis.
 
Dr. Elazer Edelman, professor of health sciences andtechnology at MIT, and MIT graduate student Joseph Franses, co-invented apatent portfolio directed to the use of cellular implants for cancer diagnosis,prognosis and treatment. Edelman is one of the original founders of Pervasisand a current member of the company's board of directors.
 
Edelman and Franses "demonstrated that endothelial cells area critical component of the tumor cell stroma and serve a similar role incancer biology as they do in vascular biology, regulating cancer cell behaviorand suppressing proliferation, invasiveness and inflammation," Blenkhorn says."Their research, which was published in the Jan. 19 issue of ScienceTranslational Medicine, suggests that inthe tumor setting, quiescent endothelial cells are tumor-suppressive and slowthe proliferation and invasiveness of cancer cells, while disruption of theendothelial cells eliminates their ability to inhibit these actions that causemetastasis."
 
Introducing exogenous functional, healthy endothelial cellsto the stromal area can restore homeostasis, the researchers found. Further,multiple preclinical studies demonstrate the powerful anti-angiogenic,anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory properties of this endothelialcell-based approach in the presence of various solid tumor cancers, such asbrain, lung, breast and prostate. 
 
"This research demonstrates that targeting and regulatingcell stroma (the tumor environment or 'ecoystem' that is comprised of variouscell types distinct from cancer cells) with a novel cell-based approach mayprevent key processes that play a role in advancing solid tumor growth andsurvival," Blenkhorn says.
 
 
Simply put, MIT scientists have discovered that endothelialcells secrete molecules that suppress tumor growth and keep cancer cells frominvading other tissues, a finding that could lead to a new ways to treatcancer, she says.
 
 
As scientific background, endothelial cells (thin layer ofcells that line the blood vessels) are critical to tissue repair and health,and have a well-understood role in regulating many of the body's healingprocesses, including those associated with vascular repair.
 
 
"Further, endothelial cells work as the body's 'policeforce'—helping maintain homeostasis and control cells under a range ofpathologic stresses," Blenkhorn says.
 
 
Pervasis is using this license as a cornerstone of its newlyannounced oncology program, through which the company is further developing itsproprietary polymer matrix-embedded endothelial cell-based therapy (PVS-30200)to target and regulate cell stroma.
 
"Pervasis' ultimate goal is to develop a novel cell-basedtherapy that could lead to a safer, more effective treatment for solid tumors,preventing cancer recurrence and metastasis and improving outcomes for cancerpatients," Blenkhorn says.
 
Frederic Chereau, president and CEO of Pervasis, says he isexcited to expand the company's focus "into the critical area of oncology."

"We already have amassed a significant amount of datademonstrating the safety and efficacy of utilizing our novel cell-basedapproach to improve outcomes associated with the treatment of other seriousconditions," Chereau says.
 
 
"We are highly encouraged by our initial findings, as webelieve they significantly advance our understanding of the critical roleendothelial cells play in inhibiting many of the aggressive aspects of cancer,"Edelman adds. "We believe this research will open the door to vast horizons forfuture research and the development of novel therapies, and we look forward tothe work Pervasis is undertaking to advance these concepts to the clinicalstage." 
 
PVS-30200 has a number of advantages over current cancertherapies, according to Pervasis. PVS-30200 utilizes Pervasis' proprietaryimplantable material comprised of healthy allogeneic endothelial cells embeddedin a polymer matrix that is delivered locally at the time of tumor excision toprevent cell proliferation, inflammation and angiogenesis, key processes thatlead to tumor growth and survival.
 
 
The well-studied patented technology on which PVS-30200 isfounded has a proven safety profile, as demonstrated by data from six clinicalstudies, and can be administered and targeted locally at the site of the tumor,Chereau says.
 
"Many current approaches to treating cancer are plagued bysignificant limitations such as high toxicity and serious side effects and aresystemic in nature, unable to locally target tumors," Chereau states. "Inaddition, despite addressing the primary tumor, metastasis remains one of themost challenging aspects of treating cancer, and is a process that is oftenunpreventable and uncontrollable.
 
 
"We plan to present our preclinical findings as well as thePVS-30200 technology to the oncology community as soon as possible," he adds."We believe this therapy has the potential to dramatically advance the promiseof cell therapy as an innovative and viable treatment paradigm for cancer."
 
Building on its deep understanding of the specialized rolethat the endothelium plays in regulating natural healing and repair processesassociated with disease, privately held Pervasis is advancing groundbreakingnew therapies to dramatically improve the outcomes of common vascularinterventions, such as arteriovenous access, angioplasties, stents andperipheral and coronary bypass grafts—the failure of which result in seriouscomplications and a significant increase in medical costs.
 
Pervasis is also applying its platform technology to developproducts in other key therapeutic areas, including inflammatory disease andorthopedic injury.

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